Back to Basics: Digital Marketing for the Multifamily Industry

This is part one in our series that focuses on basic digital marketing strategies that are proven to help you attract and convert leads.

Long gone are the days when you would just have to post listings in the local local newspaper or apartment search magazine and wait for potential residents to show up to your properties. Today’s digital landscape requires multiple touchpoints to not only gain the attention of prospective residents, but also to get them to take the necessary actions to engage with your business, schedule an appointment, fill out an application, pass the requisite background checks, and finally sign the lease.

I’m sure most of you have a good handle on how to set up, implement, manage, and track digital marketing campaigns, but it never hurts to have a quick refresher on the basics.

Who are you trying to reach?

The most important thing to consider when embarking on any digital marketing campaign is who are you trying to reach? When building a target audience make sure you first conduct research on current and past residents. Is there anything that connects them? Identify those common denominators as a foundation, noting any specific demographic trends that will be helpful when building out your personas. Much of this data is likely already contained in your CRM, so it should be easy for you to access and review.

After looking inward, it’s time to turn your view outward toward your competition and the rest of the market. Find out what your competitors are doing and who they are targeting. What are the similarities and differences? Are there any gaps you need to address or could take advantage of. Conducting regular market research and competitive analysis will help you maintain an advantage over other properties in your city.

After completing the requisite research, it’s time to start building out your personas. Before we do that, it’s important to note that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on certain protected classes. This includes in your advertising. What that means in this context is you need to be careful when implementing marketing campaigns to ensure they are inclusive. As a starting point here are the most important characteristics to include in your personas:

-Understanding the key demographics, interests, and lifestyle of your target audience

-Pain points, including why they are typically moving and what differentiates you from the competition

-How can you be empathetic to those pain points and offer solutions to meet their needs?

-What common objections do applicants that choose other properties have? Maybe your units don’t have enough closet space or other properties in the area have added a pickle ball court. Make sure you know what those objections are and have a planned response crafted.

-What other important information can you provide that will be helpful to those building marketing campaigns to your audience? For example, provide a list of publications, websites, etc. that are popular among your residents and applicants.

What is your content strategy?

When beginning to build out your content strategy, it's important to identify where your persona goes to find information or where they look for advice when making a decision. This will inform what type of content needs to be created, what the tone of that content should be, and how it is ultimately delivered to your audience.

Each type of content you use should have a specific objective tied to it. For example, ILS listings or display ads help create awareness of your communities. Email and text messages are used to nurture and reassure the prospect as they navigate through the renter’s journey. QR codes and video tours are used to educate and inform. Leading review sites help build trust with applicants and help residents make informed decisions.

While all of these content types play an important role in pushing prospective residents toward signing a lease, it’s important to have tools in place that measure the performance of each along with associated messages so you can continue to iterate, improve, and optimize your content.

Organic vs. Paid Search: Why not both?

You need to develop both an organic and paid search strategy, but before we get into that, let’s first discuss the difference between both for those who might not know. Organic search focuses on unpaid search rankings, utilizing a number of different strategies to increase rankings (outlined below), while paid search allows you to pay for/bid on top placement in the search results. Both have value. For example, paid ensures your listings have visibility, while organic ensures your listings have credibility.

For each of your properties, you’ll want to optimize for local search (i.e. local SEO). Below we highlight some of the most effective ways for you to climb up the Google rankings.

-Claiming your Google Business Profile and all other relevant listing sites valuable to your customer like Facebook, ILS, etc.

-Make sure all the information is up-to-date and completely filled out -Set up Google Business Messaging, Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat and other relevant communication channels

-Enable residents and applicants to leave reviews on the top review sites for your properties

-Respond to both negative and positive reviews

As mentioned, paid search is so important because it helps increase visibility to your listings. Consumers don’t like scrolling and have become more and more comfortable clicking on paid ads. While organic search results are geared more toward answering direct questions a customer might have, paid results are optimized for getting a conversion.

Because there is a cost associated with each click in paid search, it’s important to continually review your budget, while optimizing ads for conversion by switching copy, calls to action, etc. Next, you’ll want to understand the keywords that are important to residents (i.e. what are they searching for) and make sure you have high placement for the most relevant keywords. Understanding your keywords will also aid in building out your organic search strategy as well.

An additional layer to both paid and organic search is retargeting. Once they click through to your property, you’ll be able to serve up ads to them wherever they go on the internet. This is important to reinforce your brand and keep you top of mind as they continue their way down the funnel. Finally, since the paid search landscape is constantly changing, it can be hard to stay on top of, so it might make sense to employ an agency to manage your overall search strategy.

Identify which channels work best for your audience

As mentioned in the personas section, each audience is going to have different messaging channels they trust and are more effective at reaching them through. This is going to vary by age, gender, geography, etc. For example, younger audiences will likely want to communicate with you via text message or some other messaging platform. While texting might be fine for millennial audiences, as more and more Gen Z enter the rental pool, you might need to adopt visual communication as well, as they have spent a majority of their time growing up in front of screens consuming videos on TikTok, YouTube, and other social media channels.

For older audiences, it might be better to communicate with them in person, over the phone, or via email because those are the channels they are most comfortable with. Regardless of what channel you ultimately decide to choose, one of the most effective aspects of digital marketing is lead nurturing to stay in touch with leads, keep them warm, and ensure your property remains top of mind with prospects while also keeping your residents informed about new policies or events happening at the property.

When creating lead nurture campaigns, it’s important that you are utilizing inbound marketing. That’s just a fancy way of talking about activities we’ve already discussed like content marketing, SEO, and paid search. This can also include prospective residents filling out resident cards. Basically, it’s anything you are doing to collect lead information. As a best practice, you’ll want to collect at a very minimum their name and email address. If you can get a phone number, even better!

From there, you’ll want to create campaigns to educate prospective residents about your properties and some of the offerings you might have like rent credit reporting, deposit alternatives that make it easier to get into an apartment, and other amenities you have to offer. The goal of most nurture campaigns is to educate prospects and help push them further down the renters journey and get them closer to signing a lease.

While this might sound complicated, it actually is really simple to implement and manage. That’s because once it’s set up, much of the process can be automated as messages are triggered based on actions taken by the prospect or timing of each message you indicated when setting up the campaign.

Collect data and optimize

The engine behind any good digital marketing strategy is your reporting. Your campaigns will only be as good as the data you have on their effectiveness. Some tactics you should employ are:

-A/B Testing. You’ll want to test different subject lines, graphics and text on your website, calls to action on landing pages.

-Utilize landing pages. Speaking of landing pages, it’s important that you have places to send prospects when they click on a digital ad. Landing pages contain relevant information for the prospect, along with a place to provide you their contact information. You’ll want to test headlines and placement of the form.

-Conversion rate. The main reason you’re conducting A/B testing on copy, CTA’s, subject lines or updating your landing pages is to increase conversion rates. Conducting these tests will help inform future copy and campaigns to ensure you have the most people clicking through to your landing pages and filling out guest cards. When you do this you are generating data that is actionable for your leasing teams.

-Cost per approved lease. While it’s cool to track the number of leads you are generating, what really matters is the revenue you’re generating. Additionally, you’ll want to be looking into which lead sources are resulting in the highest/fastest conversions. This will help you understand how to better invest your marketing dollars and eventually will lead to a lower cost per approved lease because you will be focusing on the programs that work best.

To learn more about how to build and manage a digital marketing strategy that increases engagement and conversions download our latest ebook, Building a Digital Marketing Strategy that Converts| A guide to developing an efficient, data driven digital marketing strategy that increases lead to lease conversion rates.

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